08 Oct 2008

(QualityGal) The Differences Between Good Writers and Great Writers

I have a lot of good writers on my writing team.  I won’t accept average writers, and bad writers make me cringe.  I do have a few really great writers, and I love them all to death.  My goal is to have a whole team full of great writers – either by recruiting those who are already great or molding my good writers into great ones.

But how can you tell the different between a good writer and a great writer?  There’s a writer’s joke about "the one who has the best editor" that has a bit of truth to it, but some writers are great on their own.

Here’s how you can tell the difference:

  • Good writers can research and write about a variety of subjects without sounding like complete idiots.  Great writers know what they’re good at, and they not only avoid sounding like an idiot, but they can come across as an authority because they write what they know.
  • Good writers know how to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation – errors are usually of the typo variety.  Great writers know how to use complex sentence structure that grabs attention and shows mastery of the English language.
  • Good writers compose factually accurate content.  Great writers compose content that is so interesting that even people who aren’t familiar with the subject will be drawn in.

I asked the folks on Twitter to weigh in on what makes a great writer.  And here’s what they said:

@cyandle ability to draw you into their article & keep u reading until the end; once  done u want more of their articles to read…

@joehall Great writers always use great pens! srsly, each great writer is great in their own way, some excel in areas that others fail…

@joshuasci PASSION about the topic.

@johnsantangelo A great writer has the ability to say nothing at all with a whole bunch of words, and also the ability to say so much with just a few words.

As a person who now manages a team of writers, I can add a few more things about what makes a writer great in my eyes, even if readers will never know this part.

Great writers follow directions. They ask questions if there’s something they don’t understand. 

Great writers are passionate and motivated.  They may do this for the money, as most good writers do, but they also do it because they love it.  And that shows in their writing.  

Great writers go the extra mile.  When they ask for an extension, it’s because they’ve been without power due to a hurricane, and they just got internet access back at the local coffee shop. Or they were unable to write over the weekend because they were dining out at the local restaurants they were recommending in a travel piece. Or they went out and bought a book about punctuation to help them step up their game.

Great writers always strive to be better.  When they get constructive criticism, they take it to heart, tuck it away, and figure out how to never make the same mistake again. They crave feedback and aim to please.  They are their own worst critics.

What do you think?  What would you say separates the great writers from the good writers? Leave me a comment!